Magic Lantern Festival 2016

At the weekend we headed over to Chiswick House and Gardens to visit the Magic Lantern Festival. It finishes this Sunday - March 6th, 2016 - so if you like what you see, you still have time to visit!

We booked tickets for a 5.30pm entry, which I'm really pleased we did because it meant that we got to see the lanterns in various degrees of light as well as in the dark. It was also less crowded at this time. (When we left at 6.30pm the queue to get in stretched right the way out of the grounds and on to the main road.)

If you do go, wrap up warm! It was very cold when we were there - my hands were utterly frozen with all the photos I snapped. Still, you all get to enjoy lots of lovely pictures at my expense!

Aren't they quite something? x

Tickets for adults cost £16 (£18 on the door) and £10 for children (£12 on the door.) The Magic Lantern Festival is on at Chiswick House and Gardens, London, W4 2QN.

The month that was: January 2016

What happened:
We headed to Yorkshire to see my family and spent the weekend catching up, ice skating, bowling, playing board games and sorting out our trip to Disneyland Paris. Speaking of family, our new niece (on Olly's side of the family) was born. Welcome to the world, Esmé Florence!

We had to start flat-hunting pretty sharpish in January. We've found before that having a cat really limits our options: I rang one estate agent, mentioned the cat, and she arranged four viewings for us. At the end of the conversation I asked her to reconfirm that the landlords were definitely OK with the cat... four appointments became one. (And that flat was grim.) The whole situation has been very stressful, but we should be signing the contract for our lovely new home any day now. More next month when we've moved! (Fingers crossed!)

I finished listening to the Limetown podcast, which I didn't like, and the Adnan Syed episodes from Truth and Justice and Undisclosed (which I did). We bought a record player - cue buying all the vinyl - and I bought some running gear in the January sales. (Nope, not been for a run yet.) We also went to Bounce for a friend's birthday, but got there too late to play ping pong. Doh!

We headed to the theatre twice - to see Matilda which we saw the other year and really loved, and then to see The Play That Goes Wrong. Matilda was as awesome as it was in June 2014, and I really loved the Trunchbull (again). The part is so funny, and Craige Els did a marvellous job. As for The Play That Goes Wrong, it is absolutely hilarious, and I really recommend that you go and see it. Immediately. (You can read the rest of this post later.)

Finally, I finished my consulting work at the end of January* which means I can crack on with Found, the final book in the Arielle Lockley series. I'll have an update on the exact release date very soon (April/May), and will be revealing the cover. I know I said that Found would be out at the end of last year, and I'm so sorry it's been delayed, but life in London is expensive and sometimes I have to work even though I'd rather be writing. If you want to be an author purely for the money, pick another career!

*OK, I worked the first two days of February, too, but I'm *definitely* done for a while after today!

What I ate:
In Notting Hill I had lunches at Farm Girl Cafe (below right), Tem Tep and The Hillgate for the first time. Tem Tep was really disappointing, but I went to another Vietnamese restaurant in Covent Garden - Com Viet, where I've eaten before - and that was much tastier. We celebrated a friend's birthday at Flesh and Buns, and I can highly recommend their tasting menu. I don't like sushi but their fried squid was the best squid I've ever had in the UK. (Squid below is from The Hillgate - it was more colourful-looking than F&B's squid!)

We had a pretty indulgent weekend when we went to Hakkasan for dinner on Saturday night, then to Blacklock the next day for dinner. All the food at Hakkasan was beautifully done - truly scrumptious - but my favourite dishes were the roasted chicken in satay sauce and the roasted silver cod in a champagne and honey sauce. Full thoughts here.

As for Blacklock, it's my new favourite place for a Sunday roast. We went all-in, which is exceptional value: £20 each for a mountain of meat (lamb, pork and beef) with all the trimmings, plus additional sides of cauliflower cheese, minted peas with horseradish, and roots and gremolata. The bone marrow gravy was divine - lashings of it got poured all over my roast - and we left with very happy tummies.

What I watched:
Films watched: The Terminal, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The DUFF, Trainwreck, Get Hard, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Cake, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Wild and Unfinished Business.

TV-wise, we watched The Man in the High Castle, which I really loved, but I just want to know what's going on. Roll on season 2! The girls returned in Pretty Little Liars, so I had to resubscribe to Netflix immediately - they may be older, but they are still as troubled! (And the show is still as ridiculous, but who doesn't love a guilty pleasure?)

We watched Making a Murderer, which I found as gripping as the first season of Serial. Based on what we saw, whether they are guilty or not, the trial was seriously dodgy and there didn't seem to be enough *actual* evidence to convict. I appreciate though that we only saw a slither of the trials. Another food-for-thought documentary we watched was Going Clear, the documentary about Scientology. Anyone seen either of these?

What I read:
Book-wise, I read 6 books and started listening to The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson. I wasn't really in the mood for reading this month, but The Girl with All the Gifts was my favourite.

How was your January? x

Hakkasan Hanway Place

Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD

I've been meaning to celebrate my 30th birthday with one of my best friends, who turned thirty shortly after me, since we hit the big 3-0 last year. We *finally* made it to Hakkasan with our other halves at the weekend to do this, and what a feast we had!

There are two Hakkasan restaurants in London - the original Hanway Place restaurant, where we went, and a Hakkasan in Mayfair. Both have a Michelin star, so we knew we'd be in for a treat either way. After having a cocktail in the bar - I had the rather tasty lemongrass aviation cocktail (Tanqueray No. Ten gin, lemongrass, lemon, maraschino and crème de violette mist) - we made our way to our table to begin the fun task of choosing our food.

We were going to be good, and then saw the signature menus... we picked two different signature menus between the four of us (it's a minimum of two people per menu). This meant we ended up with a very indulgent four starters, eight mains (seven different mains, with double portions of one main as it featured on both menus) and two sets of desserts between the four of us. The mains also came with sides of steamed jasmine rice and some very yummy asparagus, so we had the rather marvellous joy of eating ALL THE FOOD! We also chose a few bottles of Sauvignon Gris Casa Marin, a really nice white wine, to drink over dinner.

All the food was beautifully done - truly scrumptious - but my favourite dishes (if I *had* to choose) were the roasted chicken in satay sauce and the roasted silver cod in a champagne and honey sauce. The champagne and honey sauce was ridiculously yummy (I could never be a proper restaurant reviewer with my descriptions); the cod was flaky and moreish. As for the satay sauce, BEST satay sauce ever, and the chicken was roasted beautifully. Even though the dish is one of the cheapest mains on the à la carte menu(!), it packs some serious punch and I wouldn't think twice about ordering it next time. (If I can avoid the lure of the signature menu.)

For the starters, we enjoyed a dim sum platter (above left), salt and pepper squid, crispy duck salad and sesame prawn toast - all were delicious, but the prawns in the prawn toast were especially juicy. As for the other mains, we feasted on pan-fried silver cod, stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef, spicy prawn with lily bulb and almond (above right), Mongolian-style venison and stir-fry Australian lobster in XO sauce. The venison, lobster and spicy prawn dishes were, for me, slightly more special than the remaining beef and cod dishes. (But those two were still very nice!)

The only dishes I didn't really like were the desserts, though the rest of the table did. Apple tatin is not my cup of tea so I didn't have any, and whilst the chocolate orange delice (left) was nice, it wouldn't have been my pick if we'd ordered from the à la carte menu.

All-in-all, I was very impressed (and stuffed) with my visit to Hakkasan Hanway Place - it's somewhere we'll definitely be returning to. It is pricey - more expensive than The Hand and Flowers which has two Michelin Stars to Hakkasan's one - but, I admit, we were very indulgent on this visit!

Have you eaten at Hakkasan? x


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